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By: Scott Grossman on January 8th, 2018

How Much Does A California Probate Cost?

How Much Does California Probate Cost?

Well, the lawyerly answer is to tell you, it depends. It just depends on your case, but that’s not really true.

California has done away with any sort of hourly rates or contingency fees when it comes to a straight probate administration.

Here is what that means, it means that there is an expectation that there are certain things that have to be done in every probate, no matter what it is that is going through probate. California decades ago, put in place something that is called the statutory fee schedule. Now, this fee schedule applies both to the executor of the administrator (that’s the person who is actually in charge of the estate). As well as the attorney for the executor or the administrator. And it is a simple calculation based on the gross value of the estate. Now, I want to emphasize gross for a moment because often people come to me and say, “Well, here is what the house is worth, but there was a mortgage”, or “Mom and dad owned cars, but they still owed money on the cars”. Those debts don’t matter. For purposes of calculating the fees, all that matters is the gross value of the estate.

So the probate fee schedule is simply this: it is 4% of the first $100,000 in value, 3% of the next $100,000 in value, 2% of anything between $200,000 and $1,000,000 & 1% of anything between $1,000,000 and $10,000,000.

Now, those are not all the costs in probate.

Although, they are the biggest ones. During probate, I just told you, we have to find out what the gross value of the estate is. Well, that’s not done by you or by me. A document called an Inventory and Appraisal gets put together and gets sent out to a neutral third party called a probate referee. And the probate referee is assigned by the judge in probate court. That’s the person who determines what the gross value of the estate is. Well, the probate referee gets paid as well. And they get 1/10 of 1% of the value of what they appraise, and then there are some certain out-of-pocket costs that they are entitled to as well.

In addition to those costs, you are going to have filing fees, publication fees and you are probably going to need some sort of copies of documents along the way.

As a rule of thumb, I tell people to anticipate they are going to spend about $1,500 on out-of-pocket costs. Now, all of this comes out of the probate estate. So that means, if you say, “Hm, I know that I need to open probate, but I am not sure if I am going to have all of that money available, at the beginning of the case”, then you don’t have to worry about it.

It is not actually something that you pay yourself. This is money that comes out of the estate.

Now, there are certain costs like the initial filing fee and making a publication. That has to be done at the beginning of the case and there is no way around it. So you may be asked to advance certain costs, knowing that you will be reimbursed at a later time. Hopefully, you could do that. If not, oftentimes it’s something that can be worked out with a probate attorney. But at the end of the day, no matter how you look at it, all of these costs get paid out of the estate, not added to your pocket personally.

Now, there can be other costs as well but this doesn’t come up often.

If the estate gets embroiled in litigation, then there can be something called extraordinary fees. That is something that happens on an hourly basis and something discussed in a separate video.

 The same thing if you need to sell a house and there is an important distinction here.

If you have what is called full authority, under the independent administration of the estates, there shouldn’t really be any extra charges associated with the sale of the house. If you have only limited authority, under the independent administration of estates, it’s actually a more cumbersome process and you can expect that you are going to pay some amount of extraordinary fees. So those are the expenses that you are looking at or, the costs that are associated with doing probate in California.

If you need to do probate or have questions about completing probate, do not hesitate to contact our office today or via phone at 888-443-6590.

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